Norwegian crab is very popular at the seafood market in Seoul, which features seafood of all kinds, the best of which is sold alive. Photo: Ingrid Kvalvik/Nofima.

Project Year 2016

South Korea wants live seafood

 Marketing research  

Live Norwegian crab is popular, but the competition is tough. Research is providing valuable insight for companies that want to enter the Korean market.

Live seafood is very popular in many parts of the world and commands a high price. Norwegian export of live seafood is relatively new, but now sales are really taking off, especially for crab.

In 2016 almost two-thirds of the king crab catch was sold alive at the staggering export price of NOK 220 per kg, mainly to South Korea.

In order to gain insight into why Norwegian crab has become so popular in such a short time, and how its position can be further strengthened in the market, Nofima market scientists have conducted in-depth interviews with South Korean importers and buyers for supermarket chains.


“Koreans love Norwegian crab. They like the quality of the crab and they like dealing with Norwegian exporters, as well as being glad of competition among the suppliers,” says scientist Bjørg Helen Nøstvold.

Norwegian crab faces stiff competition, primarily from Russia, which has been exporting live red and blue king crab to Korea for decades. While Norwegian crabs are packed alive in crates and flown to Seoul, Russia delivers crab directly by boat. They thus have the advantage of delivering only live, uninjured crab and take injured or dead crab back. South Korea also has its own crab fishery.

Good reputation

Koreans do not eat all the crab themselves. Roughly half of the imported crabs are resold, mostly to other Asian countries.

A high meat content is essential, in terms of sales, price and survival. The scientists also believe it would be beneficial for Norwegian crab companies to adapt to the Russian and Korean crab-fishing seasons.

In addition, the companies can also benefit from the fact that other Norwegian species are already well established and known.

“Norwegian salmon and mackerel have a good reputation in South Korea. Norwegians are regarded as honest and reliable, and while this benefits the crab companies, it also requires a commitment to the market. Long-term relationships are a prerequisite when doing business in Korea,” says Nøstvold.

The Norwegian Seafood Council, the Norwegian Fishermen’s Sales Organisation (Norges Råfisklag), Cape Fish, Varanger Seafood, and the seafood company Båtsfjordbruket. Scientific collaboration: University of Stirling.

Regional Research Fund North

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